A Social-Media Inspired Scent
The opening of the new Modern Muse Le Rouge by Estée Lauder is crisp and green, soon followed by a sweet-vanilla meringue accord interrupting you in the middle of your musings as you think that, decidedly, Le Rouge seems destined to younger women smelling like crisp tulips; then you have to add - crisp tulips served on a boozy, desserty base of indulgence smelling of rhum agricole...
A posse of girls pops up in your mind; they use a language which sounds a bit stereotyped and cliched while the vanilla meringue accord states: "I'm a building block of contemporary youth olfactory culture."
I have virtually never heard Kendall Jenner speak, but her face and silhouette are familiar in the social media and TV reality landscape we inhabit. I learn, thanks to Wikipedia, that she is almost 20 years old. It sounds like the right age to appeal to her immediate juniors and seniors, making up a comfortablly fitting target-group of new, younger customers for Estée Lauder. You also see that she occasionally takes selfies flipping the bird on Instagram. She is a social-media icon, expressing the existential anger and angst of more than 30 million adolescents and inner-adolescents who follow her.
She also recently posted her musings on life:
"I want to sit on a kitchen counter in my underwear at 3 am with you and talk about the universe."
"And by "you" I mean all 30 million" (tongue-in-cheek emoji)
Fortunately, to assuage her sense of torment at life's unjust physical limitations, only 916 K "Liked" the idea. That's, like, almost, a slap in the face of a Kardashian social-media tycooness. Fortunately, one of her Instagrams is historically the most liked photo on the social media site with, as we speak, 2.7 Million Likes. She's reportedly outdone her spiritual mistress, half-sister Kim.
Kendall broke a historical record of Likes on Instagram with this faux selfie.
The new Estée Lauder fragrance, by a company known for a number of great perfumes (which ones would be your top five?), and sure-footed fragrance sense in general, is really more about Kendall Jenner on social media - not as in the advert which makes her look YSL- sophisticated - and older than her actual years.
The social media whiz embodies well what the perfume is whispering to your ear more discreetly: "Hey girls, check this one out - it smells aw-may-zing," (i.e., like my crème-brûlée scented lip gloss in shimmery nude, reminiscent of crazy party nights during summertime).
Somewhere in the composition is an expression of loyalty to the "molten woods" accord that Estée Lauder proposed as the new feminine expression of assertiveness when Sensuous was introduced in 2008. It has that same salty, caramel-y, buttery, and ambery wavelength frequency.
Perfumes with Sillage vs. Perfumes with Glow
Modern Muse Le Rouge has been, however, tuned down way low so as to not really project a sillage - but rather a glow.
I hereby propose myself to distinguish between a "sillage" and a "glow"; a glow does not snake out of your personal space to leave a trail a mile long in the streets you walk, but rather seems to reverberate, softly creating a spherical scent-form hovering above your skin and dispersing itself in a curved ball of a perfume - with contained intensity. It is, to me, like the olfactory effect corresponding to the visual effect of glowing embers.
If a sillage is more implicitly influenced in its conception by the streets of a city, the architecture of a place and a longing form of memory for the olfactory hologram a person leaves behind, a perfume with a glow aims to fill a space of intimacy and radiance; it is more influenced by the idea of skin, the aura and the warmth of a presence, as you experience it in the very moment.
As a perfume critic, I like to draw a distinction between these two distinct types of outer-projections of a perfume. The latter is also, curiously, more capable of reproducing a metaphorical effect of light and radiance, than the first.
Modern Muse Le Rouge visibly aims to seduce the crème-brûlée generation of girls, in the moment, those molded by vanilla notes and abundant desserty fantasies - post-Angel by Thierry Mugler (1992). It smells exactly like how you imagine a focus group of 14-24 year-olds might give their easy and consensual approval to.
One could say that perfumes with a glow are meant to be more for a collective, sociability-oriented experience of sharing, in the moment, while fragrances with sillages are still tied to the notion of mystery and longing for an individual who is away or absent. Fragrances which glow are also made to be perceived by the wearer.
If in some cases designers lead, in the case of this latest, the crowd obviously does. The new fragrance typifies the social media dynamic which has vastly inversed the top-down approach to style and fashion. You go from the bottom up now more than ever, looking at the number of "Likes."
Modern Muse Le Rouge has followed this lead so religiously, it smells like a social pamphlet of its times. It is a feminine and soft scent which can be worn easily - but never passionately. It is one of those perfumes you can put on and forget about afterwards because it never leaves its secondary supporting role - with not much dialogue - maybe just like Kendall.
Don't you find distressing the number of pretty *And silent women* who have become a mainstay of our pop/celeb culture?
Those who are looking for more divaesque perfumes will have to look elsewhere. What becomes then of the tag line "Be Daring. Be an Inspiration" ? It's a feel-good statement meant to do just that - not to be taken literally.